Robert Handford EM

b. 24/12/1886 South Molton, Devon.  d. 3rd Q 1958 Barnstaple, Devon.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 25/10/1921 Llanbradach Colliery, Llanbradach, Glamorgan.

Robert was born on Christmas Eve 1886 in South Molton, Devon, the youngest of four children of Elizabeth Handford. His father had died before his 5th birthday, and by the age of 15, Robert was working as a farm hand tending to cattle with the Cook family in North Molton. At some point, he enlisted with the Devonshire Regiment as Private 1886, but nothing much is known of his service. In 1910, he married Emily and by the time of the 1911 Census, he was living at 26 Dewinton Terrace in Llanbradach, Glamorgan, with a 6 month old daughter, Violet. He was employed as a timber drawer at the local colliery at the time. It is known that on the outbreak of WWI he did re-enlist with the Devonshire Regiment but was invalided out on 12th October 1915.

It is then believed he returned to the mines of South Wales, and was awarded the Edward Medal for his part in the roof fall rescue on 25th October 1921. Little is known about his life after this event, though in the 1939 England and Wales Register, he had returned to his native Devon and was an umemployed general labourer living with his wife and a daughter Iris (born in 1922). Their address was 11 Garford Villas, South Molton, Devon. Robert died in the summer of 1958 aged 71, and the death was registered in Barnstaple.



On October 25th, 1921, a fall of roof occurred at the Llanbradach Colliery, Glamorgan, and a collier named Carter was partially buried. Some men working near by came to his assistance and began to clear away the rubbish. They had not proceeded far when Handford, the local fireman, arrived, and immediately started to erect wooden sleepers as a protection for Carter’s body. A second fall of about 30 tons took place almost immediately, but the few sleepers already erected prevented Carter being crushed. Handford then cleared the rubbish from Carter’s head and had succeeded in putting up some more supports when a third fall of about 45 tons took place and the rescue party had to jump clear. Handford persevered with the work of rescue; he gradually made his way over Carter’s body, completely protecting it with timber, and succeeded eventually in freeing him from rubbish with the exception of his left leg, which was securely pinned down by a heavy weight of earth. Repeated attempts were made to pull Carter clear, but without success, and it was decided to amputate his leg. Handford, however, made further attempts, at considerable risk of being buried himself, with such success that Carter was eventually extricated without any serious injury to his leg. Handford for four hours was continuously exposed to the danger of being buried; he displayed great promptitude in facing the situation, and his intelligence and bravery undoubtedly saved Carter’s life.